The phenomenon of seniors losing interest in life is called anhedonia and it is not a condition to take lightly, as it can easily lead to depression or other mental health disorders. This issue is vitally important to shed light on as Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches. One key legacy of the Holocaust survivors was their ability to take a step each day towards their freedom, no matter how hopeless life seemed. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author, talks about this drive to keep moving forward despite the odds in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. His psychotherapeutic method of “identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about and then immersively imagining the outcome,” is one we could all learn from.
At the JCHC senior communities, we’re going to take a page (or two) out of Frankl’s book. We understand more than most how older adults can lose their way, and these words of wisdom can help you reignite the spark for life.
Choose a Positive Attitude
Obviously, this is easier said than done, but Frankl summarizes this in a way that really clicks. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This notion of choosing your attitude was put to the test for Frankl when he first arrived at Auschwitz, the main Nazi concentration camp. While waiting on line as a prisoner, he realized the SS officers were putting people into two categories: 1. Those who seemed fit enough to work and 2. Those who were deemed unfit and sent to death by gas chambers. Despite the sheer horror of the situation before him, Viktor Frankl chose the attitude that would spare his life. He chose to appear stoic and composed because this was the only thing in his power to control: how he responds to the circumstance before him. If Frankl can choose a positive attitude during one of the most horrifying events in our history, then we can definitely work towards our responses to situations in our day to day lives. One simple way for seniors to begin is by writing into a gratitude journal every morning. They can start each day on the right note by writing down everything they are thankful for in their lives at the current moment.
Gravitate Towards Love
During Frankl’s imprisonment, he realized there are three concrete ways that one could find meaning in their life: through work, suffering or love. He refers to this ideology as “The Will To Meaning,” and has found throughout his experiences that love was the strongest way to find a meaning in life. “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” What kept him moving forward at the concentration camps was his wife who he had been separated from. Envisioning the way she smiled, or imagining what it would be like to be reunited with her, helped Viktor persevere through the toughest of experiences at Auschwitz and Dachau. As we must consistently choose a positive attitude, we must also consistently choose love in our lives. Gravitate towards the people who make you feel happy, validated and safe – whenever you are with them. Finding meaning through the ones we love happens when you prioritize spending more time with them. One simple way seniors can do this is by scheduling a weekly activity, like a daily walk, with a loved one.
Turn to Faith
Everyone experiences suffering throughout their life. Big or small, there will always be suffering. However, there is one powerful thing to remember: there is freedom at the end of our suffering if we believe in something greater. When the concentration camp was finally liberated, Frankl walked the grounds days after. Seeing the place he was once imprisoned change from hopelessness to free and open made Frankl fall to his knees and thank his faith for leading him to freedom. He recited the following over and over, “I called to the lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space.” Turning to faith can be a very powerful mechanism for finding purpose in life. Seniors can take the step towards faith by joining a local church, synagogue or mosque. If they’re not sure which faith to turn to, experiencing a weekly service could be the best way to decide if they’re in the right place.
Meaningful Senior Living in NJ
At JCHC’s Lester Senior Living, our passion is aiding seniors in having meaningful experiences every day. We offer a wide range of tailored support services for older adults in an environment that prioritizes quality care, purpose and socialization. Designed to empower the connections between residents, our lively activities program is updated monthly with a variety of classes to suit everyone’s interests. Some of our most popular on-site activities include Sit & Be Fit, Movie Matinees, Bingo, Trivia Nights, and JCHC University Classes which sponsor lifelong learning. As a faith-based community, we also have a synagogue on-site where we hold weekly services and read many life lessons from the Torah.